Do BCS Schools Have an Advantage over Non-BCS schools in APR Rankings? An Early Examination

Abstract

This paper will examine academics and athletics. In particular it will review the NCAA’s newest academic measuring tool, the Academic Progress Report. The APR was the NCAA’s response to calls for academic integrity. It is intended to ensure eligibility for student-athletes and to serve as a check and balance on athletic departments. The scores are meant to provide institutions with a clear set of goals for each team and to set a higher priority on academics in collegiate athletic departments. We will try and answer the question: Do BSC schools have an advantage over non-BCS schools in APR rankings?

Introduction

Since 1989, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics has worked to ensure that intercollegiate athletic programs operate within the educational mission of their college and universities (Knight, 1989). The Knight Commission’s 1991 landmark report, “Keeping Faith with the Student-Athlete: A New Model for Intercollegiate Athletics,” presented a road map that captured the essence of what it takes to reform college sports: a “one-plus-three” model in which the “one”, presidential control, is directed towards the “three,” academic integrity, fiscal integrity, and a certification process to verify that integrity (Knight, 1991). Part of the implementation process of the academic integrity portion of the model was the Academic Progress Report (APR).

The APR was the NCAA’s response to calls for academic integrity. It is intended to ensure eligibility for student-athletes and to serve as a check and balance on athletic departments. The ARP also serves to monitor whether the institutions are properly providing for student-athlete academic needs. The scores are meant to provide institutions with a clear set of goals for each team and to set a higher priority on academics in collegiate athletic departments. “We want to change the behaviors of the teams and the institutions and the athletic program so we’re all headed toward the success of student-athletes on the field and in the classroom,” NCAA President Myles Brand said. “Everyone – coaches, ADs, presidents, and student-athletes – should understand that’s the order of the day” (NCAA, 2008). The APR began collecting data during the 2003-2004 academic year and released its first report in 2005.

The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) was created in 1998 to ensure the two top ranked teams in college football played in the national championship game. One unintended consequence of the BCS is that it has served to delineate six “power” conferences from other Division I conferences. These conferences – Southeastern, Pac Ten, Big Ten, Big XII, Atlantic Coast, and the Big East – are comprised of the majority of football and basketball playing schools in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (D1-FBS). The six conferences – branded the BCS – were given an automatic bid into the BCS bowl games (Rose, Sugar, Orange, and Fiesta) each year. This automatic bid has guaranteed millions of additional dollars to the participating conference, which the other “mid-major” conferences are not guaranteed.

Budgets of athletics programs at Division I universities vary in range. This holds true for academic advising budgets as well. With the implementation of the Academic Progress Report (APR), all programs now have the same requirements and standards to obtain. The purpose of this study is to identify whether the programs with more money have an unfair advantage over programs with smaller budgets by examining APR scores as well as budgets from both BCS and non-BCS schools.

Review of Literature

Previous studies have shown that money does not always lead to academic success. According to Costrell, Hanushek, and Loeb (2008), “determining the dollars necessary to provide an adequate education is not an easy task” (p. 24). The money an institution has must be spent properly. This statement is backed up by University of Washington Economics professor Paul Hill. Hill states, “Money is not the main barrier to performance. The main barrier to performance is how to use money more effectively” (in Spalding, 2007). Costrell et al. also found that there is no consistent amount of money that can be spent per student to ensure academic success.

Wenglinsky (1997) found that some types of academic spending are beneficial whereas others are not. Spending money to improve the level of teachers and learning assistants does not lead to better academic success. Instead, spending money to ensure a higher number of staff members so that students can have the most one on one time with their instructor is more beneficial.

As a relatively recent benchmark, little scholarly research has been devoted to the APR. The research that has been conducted focuses mostly on whether or not the APR is an accurate and fair measurement of athletic department academic programs.

Methodology, Thematic Overview and Structure

Data for this project will be gathered from a number of sources. Since the university and their respective athletic departments are both well chronicled in the popular press, there are no shortages of articles detailing the subject matter. To begin the research, the authors first consulted published reports on both the athletic departments and the university published by the NCAA and numerous articles published in the mainstream press.

A process, known as document analysis, was used prior to conducting a review of the data to develop background knowledge on the subject. This document analysis consisted of periodic visits to the campus library to obtain additional material on the subject matter. Pertinent information, specifically information detailing NCAA legislation involving academics, was obtained in this manner. The campus library contains a wealth of material that was essential in providing a historical context of intercollegiate athletics and academics at the institutions.

APR scores were collected after analyzing the official NCAA reports online from NCAA.org for the previous three years (2005-2008). The scores for each team were then divided based upon BCS status, and penalized teams were separated from the non-penalized teams. The difference between BCS and non-BCS teams was then compiled for each year.

Athletic department expenses were compiled with data from the NCAA Financial Reports Database (Indystar.com, 2009). The expense reports for each school were recorded and then separated based upon BCS status. The items were then averaged to get a sense for the difference between BCS and non-BCS schools. The list of schools reporting their budgets was incomplete. The data was taken from a report of 164 public institutions throughout the United States. Private schools are not required to release their budgets to the public, and state laws in Pennsylvania and Delaware also do not require schools to release this information (Indystar.com, 2009).

Results

Non-BCS schools were penalized more often than BCS schools all three of the years studied. For the 2005-2006 school year, seven BCS teams were penalized compared to 92 non-BCS teams. In the 2006-2007 school year, 12 BCS teams were penalized compared to 100 non-BCS teams. The number of BCS teams penalized was 18 and the number of non-BCS teams penalized was 200 in the 2007-2008 APR report out of 6,272 total teams. Recent data shows that 3.4% of all teams were penalized by the NCAA during the latest round of APR scores.

Figure 1

After analyzing the expenditures for 51 BCS conference schools and 81 non-BCS conference schools, the average BCS conference school spent $47,507,269 on athletics and the average non-BCS conference school spent $13,507,001 on athletics. The average difference between a BCS school and non-BCS school budget is $34,000,268, which you can see in Figure 2.

Figure 2
Figure 2: Difference between BCS and non-BCS average expenditures

Conclusion

This research was meant to identify whether or not BCS school teams were penalized less than non-BCS schools for APR score violations as well as determine how much additional money was available to BCS schools on average. Although BCS schools average budgets are over $34 million more per year, no in-depth numbers are available for how much individual schools spent on academics compared to other expenditures. Although academic success has been shown not to necessarily benefit from more money, the hiring of more tutors and learning specialists does benefit schools with larger budgets.

Future research about this topic might focus on how much money each school is spending on academic services and whether there is a correlation between money spent on academics for student-athletes and scores on the APR. This research could seek to examine what the money going to academic services is actually providing for those student-athletes and whether the extra funding is beneficial. Another topic of discussion might be the question: Is the penalty phase of the APR enough to alter schools’ behavior regarding academics. Some critics of the APR point to the fact that too few schools actually get penalized for low scores.

Recent data show that 507 teams posted APR’s beneath 925 but did not draw sanctions. “That raises the questions: How can so many schools avoid sanctions?” said Nathan Tublitz, a neuroscience professor at the University of Oregon who co-chairs the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics, an alliance of faculty senates at Division I universities. “One can understand a few exceptions. One can understand that some schools have good reasons. But for so many schools to have so many good reasons raises the questions of whether there’s really any bite to this academic performance package and the sanctions that are supposed to be issued” (NCAA, 2008).

References

Costrell, R., Hanushek, E., & Loeb, S. (2008). What do cost functions tell us about the cost of an adequate education?. Peabody Journal of Education, 83(2), 198-223.

Indystar.com. (2009) NCAA financial reports database. Retrieved from http://www2.indystar.com/NCAA_financial_reports/

NCAA.com. (2009) NCAA academic reform. Retrieved from http://www.ncaa.org/wps/ncaa?ContentID=276
NCAA Press Release. (2008). NCAA issues penalties and waivers for APR failures.

Spalding, A. (2007). More money does not affect student achievement, economists say. The Columbia Missourian. Retrieved from http://www.columbiamissourian.com/stories/2007/10/30/more- money-does-not-effect-student-achievement-eco/

Wenglinsky, H. (1997). How money matters: the effect of school district spending on academic achievement. Sociology of Education, 70(3), 221-237.

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